On The Spectrum: Suffering As Empowerment
My partner acquired an infection during her hospitalization for pneumonia. She has not gotten any better in two weeks, and she cannot get an appointment with a doctor for a while. It is hard for me to watch such a good person suffer and not know what is wrong or when she will recover. She is a wonderful woman who has suffered with one form of illness or another all her life.
In times like these, my first thought is to turn to the spiritual training I have learned. I strive to ask for as little as possible and constantly seek little ways to make things easier for her. I thank the Gods for pointing out these opportunities to serve her. I also have been constantly seeking the spiritual lesson I am supposed to learn. Usually, I come up with selfless service, humility, or gratitude. All these are the prescription for fundamentalist Christian womanhood.
As you all know, I have autism. One of the features of autism is taking premises to their logical conclusion and applying that conclusion to daily life, no matter how horrifying that conclusion may be. I have read lots of articles stating something like “X felt humbled by (bad event) Y.” Since humility is good, I reasoned, then anything that humbles me must be good. Therefore, I should be thankful when I am belittled or get sick, since that is an opportunity to learn humility. Of course, that means I should always be grateful to whoever belittles me, since they are teaching me a lesson.
I finally figured out this made no sense at all, in addition to sounding rather psychotic. While the idea of using bad events to learn spiritual lessons is good, the lessons I was coming up with were no longer appropriate. If I have not learned selfless service and humility in fifteen years of call center work, I will not learn it at this point! Instead, I can use suffering to empower myself. I now have permission to do something about the problem instead of doing the above mental contortions to force myself to not feel. I also have permission to feel “bad” things, like anger and disappointment. I can now work through these emotions while still being grateful I can do things to make things easier for my partner in her suffering. With this, I am content.